BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — As the country celebrates the contributions of Black Americans this month, West Virginia University Institute of Technology welcomes the institution’s first Black president.
Dr. T. Ramon Stuart is a McDowell County native.
Stuart said on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, that when he was growing up in the town of Welch, his mother – a high school dropout who later earned a Ph.D. – shined as an example and an inspiration. McDowell County is the poorest in the state, but Stuart said the richness of his family and community protected him from any notion of poverty.
“I never knew that there was challenges, because I knew, or I was always told, if you get a good education, if you work hard, if you stay honest, you can do and be anything you want to be,” said Stuart.
Stuart has spent his career in higher education, as a professor and, just before returning to his home state, as president of Clayton State University in Georgia. He said country roads brought him and his family – his wife and four-year-old daughter – back to West Virginia and to his mother. Dr. Stuart brings his experience gained outside of the state, one of the least educated in the nation, with him. He has joined a city where Black Americans make up nearly a quarter of the population. It’s the home of the historic all-Black Stratton High School and retired West Virginia Board of Education President, Miller Hall.
The city’s mayor, who seeks partnership with WVU-Tech to forge Beckley’s identity as a “cool college town,” met with Stuart on the morning of February 1 at a local restaurant. He said he welcomes the new president and his vision for WVU-Tech and Beckley.
“He is so on board with being a big part of the community and growing the enrollment and really making Beckley a cool college town, so that’s what we’re shooting for,” Rappold said, adding he plans to have monthly meetings with Stuart.
Stuart said he will pursue the concept of “Communiversity,” the idea of the city and university being one. And, as an educator and the first Black president of a university in his home state, said he sees Black history as simply an aspect of American history.
“As you look at the forefathers, who were enslaved and brought here to America, many aspects of America was built on the backs of Black people, during that period, that challenging time,” he said. “We need to embrace that. We need to understand it, but we also need to know we have the opportunity to ‘right’ history for the future.”
Stuart recognized the contributions of his predecessor, Dr. Carolyn Long, who retired in 2022.